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Fri 8th Mar 2013 - Breaking News - Fuller’s and Enterprise win at PLC awards
Fuller’s wins PLC Company of the Year; Enterprise wins Best Performing Share award: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has won Company of the Year, sponsored by College Hill, at the prestigious PLC awards. The FT said: “The year 2012 was a tough time to be a pub company. Pubs across the UK had to contend with everything from wet weather ruining the prime beer-garden season to ever increasing duties on alcohol, cut price supermarket lager and a downturn squeezing punters’ wallets, writes Duncan Robinson. Fuller’s the London-based brewer and pub chain, has shrugged off these distractions to make 2012 about growth, rather than just survival, and cementing its position as one of the best run pub chains in the UK. Fuller’s – as it is better known – has nearly 400 pubs across the UK, with around half of these in the environs of London. The pubco wants to push into Waitrose territory chasing high value customers in the wealthy bits of suburban Britain – and paying a premium to reach them if necessary. Recent investments include a £7.5m deal for two managed pubs in Bath, on top of the dozens of pubs it added to its roster in the past few years. “They have been picking up assets quite shrewdly – and they’re picking up high quality assets because they’re a high quality investment,” says one analyst. The market has liked this strategy, too. Shares in the company are up almost 15 per cent over the past year, despite the firm’s already full valuation compared with its peers. Fuller’s continued its good form into 2013, with 4.5 per cent like-for-like sales growth in its managed division for the first part of the year. The pubco has been aided by its focus on London, which, by comparison with the rest of the UK, has been largely unaffected by the economic downturn. That said, with pubs in places ranging from Birmingham to Bournemouth, the company has not been completely isolated from the austerity. Punters are drinking less beer in pubs – opting instead for cheap supermarket alcohol – and the whole sector has had to adapt, with Fuller’s leading the charge. A focus on food and on new products, such as its in-house coffee brand, brings in new customers, even as the wider pub industry contracts. Fresh products are not just gimmicks, says one analyst: Their business is more about long term style rather than fashion. Good quality beer still lies at the heart of the company. Its headline brands such as London Pride are near household names, while their vintage ales, such as Fuller’s award-winning 1845 label, are well-respected by connoisseurs of a pint.” Meanwhile, Enterprise Inns won Best Performing Share, sponsored by Winterflood Securities. The FT said: “It was hardly a brilliant year for Enterprise Inns. In November it announced a fall in 2012 pre-tax profits from £157m in 2011 to £137m in 2012, and chief executive Ted Tuppen said there was nothing in the economy that was going to set trading alight over the next year. “It will be a period of flat calm,” he added. The shares had a great year, though. They had hit their lowest price for a decade in January 2012, and recovered as trading stabilised and the balance sheet was strengthened by a sell-off of most of the company’s lower-value pubs. By December, the share price had reached an 18-month high on hopes that they would shortly enter the FTSE 250 index. Promotion, which duly took place, meant index tracker funds had to buy the shares.”

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